Bridge of Spies (2015)  

 

 

 

 

Director:     Steven Spielberg.

Starring:     Mark Rylance (Rudolf Abel), Domenick Lombardozzi (Agent Blasco), Victor Verhaeghe (Agent Gamber), Mark Fichera (FBI Agent), Brian Hutchison (FBI Agent), Tom Hanks (James B. Donovan), Joshua Harto (Bates), Henny Russell (Receptionist), Rebekah Brockman (Alison, Donovan's Secretary), Alan Alda (Thomas Watters Jr.), John Rue (Lynn Goodnough), Billy Magnussen (Doug Forrester), Amy Ryan (Mary Donovan), Jillian Lebling (Peggy Donovan), Noah Schnapp (Roger Donovan), Eve Hewson (Carol Donovan), Joel Brady (Police Officer - Brooklyn Courthouse), Austin Stowell (Francis Gary Powers), Michael Pemberton (Lie Detector Test Administrator), Jesse Plemons (Joe Murphy), Geoffrey Rude (Pilot in Motel Room), Michael Kempen (Pilot in Motel Room), Michael Gaston (Agent Williams), Dakin Matthews (Judge Byers), Stephen Kunken (William Tompkins), Scott Shepherd (Hoffman), Jon Curry (Agent Somner), Wes McGee (U2 Pilot), Jim C. Ferris (Bailiff), Lucia Ryan (Crying Girl), Nolan Lyons (Classroom Boy #1), Hayley Feinstein (Classroom Girl #1), Victoria Leigh (Classroom Girl #2), Sawyer Barth (Classroom Boy #2), Ashlie Atkinson (Classroom Teacher), Haley Rawson (Teacher), Laurie Dawn (Secretary on Subway), Andy Schneeflock (Gentleman on Subway #1), James Lorinz (Gentleman on Subway #2), Patricia Squire (Older Lady on Subway), Mario Corry (Clerk), Donavon Dietz (Foreman), Le Clanché du Rand (Millie Byers), Mike Houston (Man in Courtroom), Joe Starr (Courthouse Reporter), Hamilton Clancy (Courthouse Reporter), Jonathan Walker (Courthouse Reporter), Greg Nutcher (NYPD Lieutenant), Tracy Howe (Angry NYPD Cop), Edward James Hyland (Justice Warren), John Taylor (Radio Newscaster, voice), Steven Boyer (Marty), John Henry Cox (Partner at Watters Law Firm), Mark Zak (Soviet Judge, Powers' Trial), Victor Schefé (Soviet Translator), Peter McRobbie (Allen Dulles), Will Rogers (Frederic Pryor), Daniela Schulz (Family #1 at Berlin Wall Construction), Moritz Berg (Family #1 at Berlin Wall Construction), Emma Nazahn (Family #1 at Berlin Wall Construction), Matthias Scherwenikas (Family #2 at Berlin Wall Construction), Greta Galisch de Palma (Family #2 at Berlin Wall Construction), Matilda Palma Galisch (Family #2 at Berlin Wall Construction), Nadja Bobyleva (Katje), Kai Meyer (East German Soldier #1), Kristoffer Fuss (East German Soldier #2), Thomas Hacikoglu (East German Soldier #3), David Wilson Barnes (Mr. Michener), Joe Forbrich (Pinker), Henning Bormann (Prison Official), Ketel Weber (Checkpoint Soldier #1), Maik Rogge (Checkpoint Soldier #2), Tim Morten Uhlenbrock (Checkpoint Soldier #2), Matthias Gärtner (East German Youth), Rafael Gareisen (East German Youth), Nico Ehrenteit (East German Youth), Radik Golovkov (Soviet Embassy Receptionist), Petra-Maria Cammin (Helen Abel), Luce Dreznin (Lydia Abel), Michael Schenk (Cousin Drews), Mikhail Gorevoy (Ivan Schischkin), Sebastian Koch (Wolfgang Vogel), Wanja Götz (Soviet Guard), Stefan Langel (Soviet Guard), Vladimir Vilanov (Soviet Guard), Ivan Shvedoff (2nd Soviet Interrogator), Merab Ninidze (Soviet Main Interrogator), Konstantin Frolov (Soviet Director / Official), Steve Cirbus (Michael Verona), Michael Kranz (Checkpoint Guard #1), Max Kidd (Checkpoint Guard #2), Frederic Heidorn (East German Guard, Pryor), Nils Malten (East German Guard, Donovan), Nina Gummich (Hilton Waitress), Burghart Klaußner (Harald Ott), Max Mauff (Ott's Secretary), Jon Donahue (Agent Faye), Martin Dew (CIA Agent, Glienicke Bridge).

the spy airplane of American pilot Francis Gary Powers is shot down & an Am. lawyer is recruited to exchange Powers for a Russian spy

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

"1957.  The height of the Cold War.  The United States and the Soviet Union fear each other's nuclear capabilities - and intentions.  Both sides deploy spies - and hunt for them."  Inspired by true events. 

Brooklyn, New York.  Rudolf Abel paints his self-portrait.  A telephone rings and he picks it up.  He just stands there listening to something. 

Abel goes outside with his painting gear.  It looks like Abel is being followed by two men.  The two men lose Abel in the subway.  They rush upstairs and talk to two other men.  Nobody knows where Abel is.  So one fellow hurries back down the steps to the subway.  The guy just bumps into Abel coming up the stairs. The agent doesn't let on that he recognizes Abel. 

Abel takes a cab to a park by the Brooklyn Bridge. He sets ups his easel and paints while seating on a bench.  While doing this, he casually feels under the bench and picks up a coin attached underneath the bench.

Abel comes back to his apartment after finishing his painting.  He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a nickel coin.  He takes a razor blade from his shaver and opens the nickel.  Inside is a folded piece of paper.  He unfolds the paper and looks at it under a large magnifier.  Meanwhile, government agents arrive at Abel's apartment building.  They pour out of their cars and run upstairs to barge into Abel's apartment.  They find him in his skivvies coming out of the bathroom.  The agents refer to him as Colonel and have him sit down on the bed.  An agent explains to him that they are agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  The Colonel has a Scottish accent.  He asks an agent if he could clean his palette  The paint gets ruined otherwise. 

An agents gives Abel the palette. When no one is watching him, he picks up the the secret piece of paper and cleans the paints off the palette using the piece of paper. 

James B. Donovan is a lawyer in the law firm of Watters, Cowan and Donovan.  Tom Watters tells Jim Donovan that someone has come in on a very important matter.  The man's name is Lynn Goodnough.  Jim and Lynn already know each other.  Lynn says that they want the law firm to defend the Soviet spy just recently caught.  He places the large indictment down on the table.  Watters explains that the accused doesn't know any lawyers.  So the federal court tossed the case into their lap. The Bar Committee took a vote and Jim was the unanimous choice to be the lawyer.  Lynn says it's important that it looks like the spy is getting a fair shake from the Americans.  Jim objects, saying he is just an insurance lawyer.  He hasn't done criminal work in years.  Lynn counters by saying that Jim distinguished himself during the Nuremberg Trails in Germany.  In short, Jim knows criminal law. 

Jim asks about the amount of evidence against the client.  Lynn says it's pretty overwhelming.   Jim replies:  "Great, great.  Everyone will hate me but at least I'll lose."  Tom and Lynn laugh at the remark.  Tom says it's the firms civic duty to take the case, so Jim agrees to be the defense lawyer. 

A young lawyer in the firm is psyched about the firm taking the case.  Jim tells the fellow that he will need his help on the case. 

At supper at the Donovan place, Jim's daughter Carol says she was just stood up on her date.  Jim says that was a despicable thing to happen to Carol.  Dad asks who is this knot-head, but Carol just says she would rather not say.   The wife and Carol tell the father that the trial will make their whole family pariahs.  The doorbell rings and the young man from the law firm is at the door carrying a lot of law books.  The man's name is Doug, and he is the one who "stood up" Carol.  Jim invites Doug to have dinner with them.  Doug sits at the table.  The family now learns that dad has already accepted the case, and Doug is very excited about it.  

Abel meets with Donovan in jail.  Donovan is all business mentioning his law education, when he got his admission to the bar and where he now works.  He also says that Abel has been charged with three counts and nineteen overt acts.  He is also charged with transmitting U.S. defense and atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, conspiracy to gather secrets, and failing to register as a foreign agent.  Abel asks Donovan:  "Do many foreign agents register?"  Donovan ignores the question. 

Jim says that he urges Abel to cooperate with the U. S. government.  Abel thinks that Jim is working for the C.I.A.   Jim says he does not work for the CIA, nor for the US government.  Rather he works for Abel, that is, if he is acceptable to Abel as his lawyer.  Abel accepts Jim as his lawyer. 

Abel is a very cool man.  He does not get excited and Jim notices that and says:  "You don't seem alarmed."  Abel shrugs his shoulders and asks:  "Would it help?"  Jim just shakes his shoulders.  Abel asks for drawing materials and cigarettes.  Jim says that's not possible, so Abel responds:  "Mr. Donovan, you have men like me doing the same for your country.  If they were caught, I'm' sure that you would wish them to be treated well." 

A pilot is being given a lie detector test.  The man's name is Francis Gary Powers, First Lieutenant, United States Air Force.  The tests of the pilots takes place in a motel.  Later a man comes into the room where the small group of pilots are kept.  The man explains that they have been selected for a mission. The pilots may not talk to anyone about this mission.  The pilots will be collecting information about the enemy in this Cold War.  The fellow goes on to say that the pilots cannot be shot down, and you cannot be captured.  They all work for the CIA now.

Donovan asks for more time to prepare for the Russian spy case.  He wants six weeks.  The judge tells Jim that this Abel man is a Soviet spy.  He suggests that they not kid each other.  "He will receive a capable defense.  And, God willing he'll be convicted."

At night in the rain, Jim finds himself being followed.  He hides behind a car to escape from his tag along, but the man finds him anyway.  The fellow is from the CIA and just wants to talk with Donovan.  They go to a tavern.  The agent asks if Donovan's client has talked?   Jim says he's not having this conversation with the agent.  The man says he's talking to Donovan about the security of the country.  The CIA needs to know what Abel is telling Donovan.  Jim tells agent Hoffman that he follows the rule book, the Constitution.  He then  gets up to leave.  Hoffman asks him:  "Do we need to worry about you? "  Jim replies:  "Not if I'm left alone to do my job."

Peshawar Air Station, Pakistan.  Agent Williams tells the pilots at the hangar that they will not refer to the U-2 plane as a spy plane.  They will refer to it as "the Article".  The plane has an 80-foot wingspan powered by a single Pratt & Whitney J57 P-37 engine. It has a maximum speed of 430 miles an hour.  Her cruising altitude is 70,000 feet.  The enemy won't even know that the pilots are up there.  The pilots will be taking a lot of photos. 

After ten days of testimony, the Abel spy case goes to the jury. Donovan gets his picture in the newspapers and he starts getting a lot of dirty looks from regular people.

The jury finds Abel guilty on all counts. 

Jim goes to have a talk with the judge at his home.  He tells him that it would be in the best interests of the United State if Abel could remain alive.   Jim says: "It is possible that, in the foreseeable future, an American of equivalent rank, might be captured by Soviet Russia.  We might want to have someone to trade." Jim asks another question:  "should a spy be killed for doing something his nation told him to do?"

The judge gives the convicted spy 30 years in prison.  The people in the courtroom are really angry at the sentence and the judge.  And they don't care for Mr. Donovan either. 

Jim wants to take the case to the US Supreme Court, even though his boss and wife both tell him not to.  Even Abel tells him:  "You should be careful."

Someone fires three or four bullets through the windows of the Donovan home.

Agent Williams tells the pilots that if they will get captured, the men must go down with their plane.  There is also a way to commit instantaneous suicide by scratching their skin with a poison pin.  Francis Gary Powers gets ready to fly the U-2 over the Soviet Union.  Meanwhile, Jim Donovan presents his case to the US Supreme Court. 

Francis Gary Powers' plane is hit by missiles and down Powers goes.  Before getting a chance to press the destruct button, the canopy flies open and Powers is pulled from the cockpit.  He opens his parachute to float down to earth.  The news goes out about a downed American pilot over the Soviet Union.  And the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of Russian spy Rudolf Ivanovich Abel.  

A letter comes from East Germany for Jim.  The writer says she's the wife of Abel.  Jim goes to Abel who says the writer is not his wife, but he thinks Donovan should write back to the letter writer. 

The Soviet courts finds Powers guilty and sentence him to ten years in prison.

Jim goes in to see Eisenhower's Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who tells Jim that the Soviets are making an overture here.  They are doing it through East Germany because they don't want to acknowledge Abel as a Soviet citizen.  They want a prisoner exchange. Dulles now says that they want Jim to negotiate the swap.  Jim is a private citizen and can negotiate directly without governments getting involved. 

Berlin, Germany.  The East Germans are putting up what will be called the Berlin Wall.  This will stop East Germans from escaping from East Germany.  A young man on a bike from West Berlin sneaks into East Berlin. He goes to an apartment building and then up to his professor's apartment.  The man's name is Frederic. He tells the professor's daughter that he has come get her and her father and take them into West Germany.  Her father is at the university, so Frederic will try to get the daughter through the wall.  But when Frederic goes back to the entrance/exit opening he used earlier, the East German's are sealing the opening off.  Frederic tells the girl to leave now, because he is an America and he'll be okay.  The daughter starts to leave, but she stops to watch what's going to happen to Frederic.  She starts to cry when she sees a guard hit Frederic in the stomach and sees the American collapse down onto the ground. 

Jim flies to Berlin.  When he is in Berlin, he is picked up by the Americans and fed some important information:  he meets Mr. Michener, who will be Jim's Berlin escort;  the female writer says that lawyer Vogel will be representing her interests; and Jim says that Vogel has moved into the Russian embassy in East Berlin.   Michener tells Jim that the East German Stasi picked up an America student, Frederic Pryor, and might want to trade Pryor for Abel.  Vogel now says that he represents Pryor.  And the East German and the Soviet's agenda might not be the same.  Hoffman tells Jim to forget about Pryor because they can get the kid out at a latter time.

The guards let Jim go into East Berlin, where Jim runs into an East German street gang.  The young men take his overcoat.  Jim is already developing a cold and now the walk without an overcoat will make it worse. 

Jim arrives at the Russian Embassy and gets in to talk with Vogel.  Jim gets a surprise.  Abel's family supposedly is there to say hello to Mr. Donovan and thank him for saving their Rudolf.  Jim has to tell the family that Rudolf is still back in the USA.  This starts mother crying, which makes Jim feel awkward.  Then a Mr. Schischkin, the second secretary of the Soviet embassy, comes in the room.  Mr. Vogel is German and not Russian, so Schischkin is the go-between with  Jim and Vogel. 

Jim and Schischkin speak in private.  Jim now says he wants to exchange Rudolf for two men:  Francis Gary Powers and Frederic Pryor.  The Russian says they don't have this Frederic Pryor.  The East Germans have Pryor.  Schischkin says that if Jim wants Pryor, he's going to have to talk to Mr. Vogel.

Jim now goes to see Vogel.  When Jim tells Vogel that he does not represent the American government, Vogel says he doesn't represent the East German government.  They are private citizens arranging an exchange of prisoners: Abel and Pryor. 

Hoffman keeps telling Jim to forget about Pryor.  Jim refuses. 

Powers is being deprived of sleep and then repeatedly being interrogated.  Powers keeps saying that he doesn't know the answers to the Soviets' questions. 

The CIA is going to take Abel to West Berlin for the exchange

Schischkin now has permission for an exchange.  He suggests to Jim that they make the swap at the Glienicke Bridge.  The time to meet is 5:30 Saturday morning.

Now Vogel says that there will be no exchange of Pryor for Abel.  Vogel and the East Germans don't like Jim's double switch of Abel for Powers and Pryor. 

Abel gets on the plane for West Berlin.   

Jim gets into see Harald Ott, East German attorney general.  The East German will give Pryor for Abel, but not Pryor and Powers for Abel.  Ott gets a telephone call and asks for Jim to wait outside.  A messenger comes by in over an hours time and tells Jim that Ott has to leave on urgent business.  So, Jim decides to give his message to the messenger.  "There is no deal for Abel unless we get Powers and Pryor.  . . .  If there is no deal, your boss must tells the Soviets.  . . .  And who will be held responsible for that?"  Oh, and they must let the Americans know by the end of the day, if the swap is going to be canceled.

Saturday morning.  Abel and Powers are now both on the Glienicke Bridge.  Jim takes Abel out to the middle of the bridge.  He says he's worried about what the Soviets might do to him.  Abel says Jim can get a sign of how they are going to treat Abel from how the Soviets greet him.  "If I'm embraced or just shown the back seat."    Schischkin is ready to release the prisoner.  But there is no word from Checkpoint Charlie that Pryor has been released.  So Jim waits for Pryor to arrive.  Pryor does arrive and now the two prisoners, Abel and Powers, are released. 

Jim watches as they take Abel to the car.  They put Abel in the back of the car between two Soviets and then take off.

Now Powers and Jim are going home.

Jim gets home to his wife.  They hug and kiss.  Then the kids, who are watching the television, tell mom to come in and watch the news.   She comes inside.  "Gary Powers has been released from prison in the Soviet Union and turned over to American authorities early this morning in Berlin.  The President has commuted the sentence of Rudolf Abel.  Mr. Abel has been deported and has been released in Berlin.  Efforts to obtain Mr. Powers' release had been underway for some time.  In recent efforts the United States government has had the cooperation and assistance of Mr. James B. Donovan, a New York attorney."  The youngest daughter turns to her mother and says:  "I thought daddy was fishing.  For salmon."

Mom goes up to her bedroom and finds her husband fast asleep on the bed.

And now people see Jim's face in the paper and this time they don't scowl at him. 

"Following his return to Russia, Rudolf Abel was reunited with his wife and daughter. He was never publicly acknowledged as a spy.  Gary Powers died in a helicopter crash in 1977, while working for KNBC news.  He was posthumously awarded the CIA Director's Medal and the USAF POW Medal in 2000 and the Silver Star in 2012.  In 1962, Frederic L. Pryor received his Ph. D. in Economics from Yale University.  He is currently Professor Emeritus of Economics and Senior Research Scholar at Swarthmore College.  Following the successful conclusion of the Powers-Abel exchange, James Donovan was asked by President Kennedy to undertake further negotiations on behalf of the U.S  In the summer of 1962, he was sent to Cuba to discuss with Fidel Castro the terms of the release of 1,113 prisoners held after the Bay of Pigs Invasion. When Donovan finished negotiations he had secured the releases of 9,703 men, women and children. "

 

Good movie and also funny at times.  Jim Donovan is just an insurance lawyer for a New York firm. Then out of the blue he is grabbed to be the lawyer for a Russian spy.  Jim protests that he's not suited for the job, but there is too much pressure on him to take the job.  He takes the job and comes to know the Russian spy quite well.  The Russian spy trusts Jim.  Jim loses the case, but he convinces the judge not to kill the spy, but just keep him in prison, just in case the Soviets catch an American spy.  The USA and the Soviet Union then may want to make a spy swap.  American spy pilot Francis Gary Powers is caught.  The Soviets want to swap spies.  And, because Jim was so good with the Soviet spy, they want Jim to arrange the exchange.  Again, Jim finds himself at the center of the Cold War.  When Jim goes to East Berlin, he decides to trade the Soviet spy for two American "spies": Powers and an American graduate student.  This is no easy task because two nations, East Germany and the Soviet Union. are involved in the exchange.  This makes things so much more complicated and tough for Jim.  But don't underestimate Jim. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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